Cottagecore is one of those things that only makes sense online. What, in real life, is just making bread or opening the curtains becomes – with the right filter and colour scheme – a wholesome moment of reflection, a restful pause in an otherwise chaotic world. 

It's an Internet aesthetic that has bloomed in recent months, whether it's short tutorials on how to make your own rose water on TikTok and Instagram, or picnic spreads artfully laid out on gingham blankets in a blousy field. 

Its most high-profile endorsement, however, has to be Taylor Swift's latest album, folklore: cardigans, lived-in hair and makeup, oversized Aran jumpers, and a cosy cabin somewhere secluded. It's first, however, could date back as far as Marie Antoinette, when the 18th-century French princess had a peasant village built on the grounds of Versailles so she could play at living a simpler life, flower-picking and chicken coops included. 

Taylor Swift's latest album folklore is heavily inspired by the trend

What is cottagecore?
Rebecca, the flame-haired woman behind the hugely successful blog A Clothes Horse, puts it quite simply: "Cottagecore is an aesthetic inspired by nature and more traditional ways of living like farming or foraging."

Rebecca has been creating what we could now call cottagecore content for years, but her term for it – "slow-living" – is even more appealing, especially now. Posting from her tiny stony gatehouse in Northern Ireland, she curates a feed blooming with flowers, soft colours, rolling green hills and a shaggy grey dog for good measure.

We need your consent to load this Instagram contentWe use Instagram to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

The visual is very important in cottagecore, and the clue's in the name. "There's a lot of pastels, ditsy floral prints, woven baskets—just things that would look at home near a cottage", Rebecca says.

She says she started in 2008 by wearing "mostly dresses and a mix of vintage-inspired fashion", but the cottagecore aesthetic really set in once she moved to her current village five years ago. 

"Living in a more rural area and trying to shop for more ethical fashion led me to wearing a lot of linen and clothes that just feel right in the landscape around me", she says.

We need your consent to load this Instagram contentWe use Instagram to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Slow-living
"I also became more drawn to slow-living and prioritizing that over other things; I've had some career setbacks and lifestyle changes that have made me want to learn to appreciate the little things and value what I do have over trying to attain more or look successful in the eyes of society."

On her blog, she pledges to "help you find quiet in the wild and calm in the storm", so is it any wonder so many are drawn to videos of hands cutting bread, picking flowers and dappled sunlight falling through curtains?

There's a nostalgic element to it, too, a return to the simple life that we associate with childhood or the comforting version of old age. 

At a time when, for many of us, going outdoors poses a serious risk or was prohibited (for many, this is still the case) thousands of young people have pivoted to idealising the outdoors, celebrating the little things we previously took for granted. There's a nostalgic element to it, too, a return to the simple life that we associate with childhood or the comforting version of old age. 

We need your consent to load this Instagram contentWe use Instagram to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Escapism
It's "classic escapism", Rebecca says. "Right now many people are also being forced to slow down and a lot of things we usually do to distract or reward ourselves are being taken from us, we can't eat out, we can't go to movies, we can't even meet up with friends, so in that quiet space left behind I think a lot of us are starting to ask what really matters and what quality of life we want."

It helps that cottagecore is "cheerful and bright", she adds. "With things in the world being so chaotic and dark, it's nice to look at a video of spring lambs or see someone making dandelion syrup and just disappear into those peaceful scenes for even a few brief moments.

We need your consent to load this Instagram contentWe use Instagram to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

The one thing it isn't, though, is new. "Cottagecore is really a new label for an old movement—even just go back a few decades and Japanese street style mori girls (or forest girls) are a very similar aesthetic and movement. That style was more seen in the magazine Fruits, or Tumblr, but as people have moved to new platforms the same styles are re-emerging with slightly different names." 

This is more prevalent in art. "The Arts and Crafts movement emerged in the 1880s and was a response to modernism; John Ruskin in the movement argued that people who made traditional crafts by hand should be respected as artists and paid fair wages", Rebecca says.

"J R R Tolkien wrote about Hobbits and Mordor as a response to industry/modernization that had wrecked the rural landscape of his youth; the Shire is inspired by pre-Industrial age England."

We need your consent to load this Instagram contentWe use Instagram to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Romanticising your everyday
There are real life parallels too: how many of us became fixated on baking bread, walking in nature, knitting or the daily ritual of making tea? You don't need TikTok to romanticise your everyday. 

"Overall it's a pretty comforting aesthetic", Rebecca says. "Nature is a wonderful constant so there's a lot of comfort in knowing that in spring flowers will bloom, but also that everything has a season, the flowers don’t last forever, but neither does winter.

"I think as the world gets more modern and less people get to live close to nature the more people crave that connection, so the idea that they could maybe live in a cottage one day and know a bit about foraging is incredibly appealing. In the modern world it's really nice to do things with your hands or learn about nature and feel like you can actually make things or identify things in the real world.

We need your consent to load this Instagram contentWe use Instagram to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

After years of digitally-saturated lives, perhaps we're craving a deeper relationship with our environments, she suggests. "I mean it's a bit crazy how much we all know about using computers and apps and yet how we can’t identify what plant outside would kill us or nurture us if we ate it—it feels good when you can go into the woods identify a safe plant to eat and then make something from it."

Rebecca's photos aren't defined by what "looks cottagecore", however. Instead, she focuses on capturing the natural beauty around her or "trying to highlight the natural beauty and charm of my area, like old stone walls and rolling hills".

"So every spring I'm aiming to capture all the different flowers and seeing the landscape change." 

Taking the old with the new
In this way, cottagecore doesn't seem like the far-removed reality that it can look like online. Rebecca stresses that, despite all the looking backwards, "cottagecore isn't really anachronistic".

"I feel like people think that to love a rural landscape means a rejection of everything modern and it’s not true or necessary. I live in a village with a population of 300 people, my in-laws are apple farmers…everyone in my village has wifi and my father-in-law handpicks apples in autumn and then watches golf on his iPad at night.

We need your consent to load this Instagram contentWe use Instagram to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

"I want to wear clothes that are more environmentally friendly to help preserve the landscapes I admire, but I'm not interested in rejecting the modern world. I wouldn’t be interested in living in my house if it hadn’t updated it to add electricity, heat, and plumbing!"

Appreciating an older way of doing things doesn't mean you'd want to be back there, though. "I do think there is a big difference between wanting to hold on to certain aspects of the past and wanting to live in the past", Rebecca says.

"I know a lot of people who crave a simpler lifestyle, but I don't know anyone who actually wants to live in an era where women and minorities had less rights and medicine wasn’t as advanced!"